Monday, July 17, 2006

The G-8 statement on the Middle East crisis

In my post yesterday on Al Jazeera's coverage of the unfolding Middle East crisis (here), I mentioned that I was struck by their report on Sunday's joint statement about the crisis by the G-8 summit of major industrialized countries (G8 sets terms to end Mideast crisis). It sounded almost too good to be true. As I said:

I haven't seen the G-8 statement itself, so I don't yet know precisely what it says. However, Al Jazeera describes it as placing the major blame on Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as calling for the disarming of Hezbollah and the extension of Lebanese government control to the south of the country. Intriguingly enough, the package of measures it proposes is not that different from the one proposed by Chibli Mallat (which I thought at the time sounded too reasonable to be of much practical relevance--but perhaps I was wrong?).
"It is a strong message with a clear political content," the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told reporters on Sunday after negotiations at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialised nations, or G8, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. [....]
In their statement, the G8 leaders called for the Israeli soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released unharmed, the shelling of Israeli territory to end, Israeli military operations to cease and Israeli forces to withdraw early from Gaza, and for arrested Palestinian ministers and legislators to be released.
"We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East," Merkel said. "Therefore we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events.
"We are convinced that the government of Lebanon must be given all support and that the relevant UN resolutions regarding the south of Lebanon must also be implemented. [....]
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 in September 2004, calling for all militias to be disarmed and for strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under Lebanese government authority. Hezbollah has refused to disarm, saying it is a resistance movement.
If what Merkel is quoted as saying here is correct, this consensus position is remarkably clear, constructive, and on-target, though also quite ambitious. If it implies that the G-8 powers are actually prepared to take joint diplomatic and political action along these lines, it could be an encouraging sign. But all that remains hypothetical at best.

I have now seen the text of the G-8 statement (below), and the account of it given by Merkel and Al Jazeera turns out to be correct. Of course, whether or not this actually leads to constructive action and useful consequences remains very hypothetical. But as long as one is grasping at straws, this is a potentially encouraging sign.

--Jeff Weintraub
Official Statement by the G-8 Summit on the Middle East Crisis
St. Petersburg, July 16, 2006

Today, we the G-8 Leaders express our deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure. We are united in our determination to pursue efforts to restore peace. We offer our full support for the UN Secretary General's mission presently in the region.

The root cause of the problems in the region is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace.

The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace. In Gaza, elements of Hamas launched rocket attacks against Israeli territory and abducted an Israeli soldier. In Lebanon, Hizbollah, in violation of the Blue Line, attacked Israel from Lebanese territory and killed and captured Israeli soldiers, reversing the positive trends that began with the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, and undermining the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. The extremists must immediately halt their attacks.

It is also critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions. We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.

The most urgent priority is to create conditions for a cessation of violence that will be sustainable and lay the foundation for a more permanent solution. This, in our judgment, requires:

  • - The return of the Israeli soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon unharmed;
  • - An end to the shelling of Israeli territory;
  • - An end to Israeli military operations and the early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;
  • - The release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

The framework for resolving these disputes is already established by international consensus.

In Lebanon, UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680 address the underlying conditions that gave rise to this crisis. We urge the UN Security Council to develop a plan for the full implementation of these resolutions.

We extend to the Government of Lebanon our full support in asserting its sovereign authority over all its territory in fulfillment of UNSCR 1559. This includes the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to all parts of the country, in particular the South, and the disarming of militias. We would welcome an examination by the UN Security Council of the possibility of an international security/monitoring presence.

We also support the initiation of a political dialogue between Lebanese and Israeli officials on all issues of concern to both parties. In addition, we will support the economic and humanitarian needs of the Lebanese people, including the convening at the right time of a donors conference.

In Gaza, the disengagement of Israel provided an opportunity to move a further step toward a two state solution under the Road Map. All Palestinian parties should accept the existence of Israel, reject violence, and accept all previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. For its part, Israel needs to refrain from unilateral acts that could prejudice a final settlement and agree to negotiate in good faith.

Our goal is an immediate end to the current violence, a resumption of security cooperation and of a political engagement both among Palestinians and with Israel. This requires:

- An end to terrorist attacks against Israel;
- A resumption of the efforts of President Abbas to ensure that the Palestinian government complies with the Quartet principles;
- Immediate expansion of the temporary international mechanism for donors established under the direction of the Quartet;
- Israeli compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access of November 2005 and action on other steps to ease the humanitarian plight of the people of Gaza and the West Bank;
- Resumption of security cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis;
- Action to ensure that the Palestinian security forces comply with Palestinian law and with the Roadmap, so that they are unified and effective in providing security for the Palestinian people;>- Resumption of dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli political officials.

These proposals are our contribution to the international effort underway to restore calm to the Middle East and provide a basis for progress towards a sustainable peace, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The Quartet will continue to play a central role. The G-8 welcomes the positive efforts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well as other responsible regional actors to return the region to peace. We look forward to the report of the Secretary General's mission to the Security Council later this week which we believe could provide a framework for achieving our common objectives.